Archive for category “Fast and Furious” Scandal
An Albuquerque gun store has sued over a federal requirement that weapons dealers in four border states must report multiple sales of semi-automatic rifles. Ron Peterson Firearms was among more than 8,000 gun dealers in New Mexico, Texas, Arizona and California that were ordered last month to report multiple sales of such weapons to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Peterson filed a lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, asking a judge to prevent the order from taking effect Aug. 14. It is the third such lawsuit filed this week, all contending that ATF lacks authority from Congress to require the reporting. The suits do not seek money, only a stop to enforcement of the new requirement.
The requirement follows a controversial 2009 law enforcement operation in Arizona known as “Fast and Furious” that resulted in more than 2,000 high-powered weapons making their way to Mexico as authorities went after people directing gun buys on behalf of cartels. The operation has been the subject of recent congressional hearings in which the ATF acknowledged making mistakes. Of the 2,000 guns that got into Mexico, only about one-fourth have been recovered, meaning the rest could still in the hands of drug smugglers. Two of the recovered guns were found at the scene where Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was shot to death in southern Arizona on Dec. 14, although it’s unclear whether the fatal bullet came from one of those weapons or another gun. ATF spokesman Drew Wade told The Associated Press on Friday that his agency will vigorously defend its authority to collect information from gun store owners.
An ATF letter dated July 17 said weapons dealers must report sales of two or more semi-automatic rifles to a single buyer within five business days. Weapons must be reported if they are larger than .22 caliber and if they can be fitted with detachable magazines. Tom Mangan, an ATF special agent in Phoenix, said high-powered rifles, AK-47- and M-16-type weapons are included. ”We’re seeing a greater use of that type of gun by the criminal element in Mexico,” Mangan said. The ATF plans to use the reported information to identify people who are filling a “shopping list” by purchasing weapons at several stores for shipment to Mexico. Peterson’s lawsuit claimed the rule would result in a “loss of business from both in-state and out-of-state potential purchasers” who will avoid buying rifles “because they wish to protect their privacy rights.” Mangan said the rule is simply an “administrative requirement” and doesn’t prevent individuals from buying any number of semi-automatic weapons.
As a surge of weapons from the United States began to show up at homicide scenes in Mexico last summer, officials in the U.S. Embassy sent a cable to Washington that asserted authorities needed to focus on small-time operators as the suppliers of guns to the drug cartels. However, embassy officials did not know that at least some of the weapons they were noticing were guns that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had allowed straw purchasers to buy as part of a sting operation, dubbed Fast and Furious. Ultimately, ATF lost track of an estimated 1,700 guns as they flowed into Mexico. Nearly 200 arms were later recovered at crime scenes in Mexico. And two AK-47s from Fast and Furious were recovered in December at the scene of a fatal shooting of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Arizona, an incident that brought the attention of a U.S. senator who had been told by rank-and-file ATF agents that the operation had failed.
The embassy cable, written in July 2010, is further evidence that officials at the ATF were keeping other parts of the government in the dark about Fast and Furious. It also indicates that some officials with considerable knowledge of the drug trade and violence in Mexico disagreed with the basic premise on which Fast and Furious was based. The goal of embassy officials in sending the cable was to refute what they saw as a myth: that the Mexican drug cartels were running major gun-smuggling operations in the United States. Embassy officials had queried the ATF field office in Phoenix, where Fast and Furious originated, and had been told that agents considered the large cartels their main targets to stop weapons trafficking, according to a government official close to the investigation of the ill-fated program.
“The ATF was doing Fast and Furious to take down the cartel kingpins,” the official said. “The embassy wanted a different direction. It shows that there was very little communication between the two.” ”This was a shout-out from the embassy in Mexico,” said the government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. “The embassy knew something was awry when all these guns started showing up down there. But they were kept in the dark. They didn’t understand why the guns kept getting through and ending up at so many Mexican homicides.”